Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Strawberry Cucumber Salad with Preserves Balsamic Dressing

I made this a few weeks ago after seeing it on Reluctant Entertainer. I added avocado and nectarine, and used pecans instead of pistachios. Also, I used grilled chicken. Lots of flavor and the dressing is unique.

Strawberry Cucumber Salad with Preserves Balsamic Dressing
8-10 c. baby spinach leaves
2 c. cooked chicken, chopped 
2 c. fresh strawberries, chopped
2 green onion, chopped
1 c. English cucumber, seeds removed, chopped
1 c. pistachio nuts
1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. preserves 
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/2 c. red wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
1 c. canola or olive oil
Salt and pepper

In a small saucepan, bring the balsamic vinegar, shallots, and sugar to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer uncovered, stirring frequently, until liquid is reduced by half, about 8 minutes. Add the preserves and cook 1 more minute.

Transfer the mixture to a blender; add the oil and red wine vinegar and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Chill.

Place the spinach on a large platter or in a large salad bowl. Add the chicken, strawberries, green onion, cucumber, and pistachio nuts. Drizzle the dressing; toss and serve. You can also plate the salad and then drizzle the dressing on to individual servings.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Turning Down a Gear

In Japanese there's a phrase: お疲れ様です! There really isn't a translation for it, but the best I can do is, "keep up the great work!"

We've played a bit of chess and Shogi (Japanese Chess) lately, and
these two photos are of my first two ever wins in Japanese chess
(consecutively). They probably don't mean much to you, but I was
pretty happy.

Hachinohe can get quite windy at times. As I have biked around in the
wind and other weather, I think that it is interesting to note that
sometimes when the wind gets strong, going down a gear helps you more.
Too often, I think, we are used to the automatic route. Automatic
transmission in cars, automatic lighting, even instant food is
available to most of us. So, when the going gets tough in a car, we
usually think push harder. I've quickly learned that that isn't always
best. There are times when, honestly, less can be a lot more effective
than more. Don't forget to enjoy the beauty of the Earth around you!
God didn't make it for nothing, He made it for Man to enjoy.

The Kanji of the week is: 祝福師の祝福 pronounced
"shh-coo-fh-coo-shi-no-shh-coo-fh-coo," and means Patriarchal
A delicious meal made by my lovely companion. There is
corn soup on the bottom, and the top is his "special." Yes, that's a
raw egg in the food. I've come to really love the taste of raw egg.

Monday we didn't do much except for email and shopping for food. That
was fine though, because it meant we had time to relax and not have
anything to worry about. In the evening we went housing for a bit, and
then went to the church for Family Home Evening. As no one showed up
for half an hour, we went home after that, and looked at some
potential investigator records.

Tuesday I went to Misawa on companion exchange. There was a lot of
things we did, including visiting a couple of members and eating lots
of snacks they gave us, and teaching Japanese Class. The reason for
the Japanese class, is that there is a US air force base in Misawa, so
there are Americans who come to learn Japanese. On top of that, I got
to go on base with a member and got a taste of America. All I can say
is it was a giant reverse culture shock experience, and I learned just
a taste of how much I've grown un-accustomed to the bigness of
A pizza that we had while I was on base in Misawa. I
couldn't eat more than two pieces (I also had a big lunch and nonstop
snacks from members up until that point just about), and my stomach
has shrunk. It was so weird not seeing hardly any Japanese people,
everything was in English, and the pizza was actual american pizza.
There was also a "small wal-mart," which wasn't actually a wal-mart,
nor did I think it was small. I am in for a big shock when I come

Wednesday we didn't get too much in. We went streeting for a little
bit, but there was no fruits from that, and after that all we really
had time for was English class. But that was fun, as always.

Thursday we did weekly planning. As has been the case the last little
while, it has taken a bit longer to make sure that both of us are on
the same page while planning because of the language difference, but
all is well, and there were no arguments. The remainder of the time
was trying to find a building for information on a sign language
circle, and trying to find places to street or house. But no luck on
that day either.
A  cool flower I saw in Aomori and thought I should take a
picture of.

Friday was Zone Conference, and it was great. I am always amazed at
the spirit that is felt at zone conferences, and I learned a lot. I
also learned a bit more about talking to others on the street, and
about not worrying about what to say, but to just talk and my mouth
will be filled by the grace of God. That's hard work though, I'll have
you know!

Saturday my companion woke up with a sore neck, and couldn't move it
much. We called the mission president and he told him to keep the neck
warmed up, and to take some ibuprofen. He was a bit reluctant on the
medicine side, as all we had was American ibuprofen which is
apparently stronger than Japanese medicine, but He took it, and rested
a bit. By the time that English time came around though, he still
wasn't feeling good enough to actually move his neck freely, so we
spent the rest of the day looking at potential investigators records,
and old investigator records. We have some people we want to visit
now, so hopefully something goes on with that.
A cool cup thing going on in McDonalds right now in
Japan, along with a vintage sign for coke. I wanted just the coke
sign, but I didn't have my actual camera, so I just used the iPad
camera at a distance.

Sunday was great as always. The sacrament is as precious to me as it
always is, and I am so grateful for Christ forgiving me of my sins
against His commandments as long as I repent with an honest heart. Our
recent convert's brother also got back from college, and so he'll be
translating for him while he's here as he speaks Japanese. The rest
of the day was studying, but it was good studies, so I think it was
worth it.

That's my week! I hope you all have a wonderful week this week, and
that you all experience something new. I love you all, and I hope that
you all know that.


Elder _______

The happy birthday banner you sent me back in February
being used for Elder T's birthday (it was the 20th). If you
look in the reflection, you can see me taking the picture.
Zone Conference

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Better Plan

I don't watch a lot of TV, but when I'm on the treadmill I do or I go crazy. I was flipping through channels and stopped on Oprah's Master Class, where Robin Roberts was talking. I just saw a couple of minutes of it, but I loved what she said and I've been thinking about it. When I decided to look for the quote today, I actually found a clip with the short part that I saw so I included it below.

I love the thought that optimism is like a muscle that needs to be used to be stronger, but the part that I kept thinking about is this...

"God answers us in 3 ways: Yes, not yet, and I have something ever better in mind."

Many of us think of that third one as, "No. I can't give you what you want." Even when we know our Father in Heaven is omniscient, knowing all, and that he is loving, wanting to bless us, we still feel a sting when He does not grant our desires when we feel they are right.

But, like Robin says, if it is a no, there is always a reason and it is because He knows what is best for us and it will be better than anything we cold ever plan or hope for. So the next time that I don't get what I pray for, I will try my best to see that it is because I am headed toward something so much better.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Rich & Fudgy Zucchini Brownies

Shhhh! I made these really delicious brownies the other day and didn't tell my daughter Sabrina that they had zucchini and she loved them. I don't mind grated zucchini, but if she knew it was in there, she wouldn't have even tried them. The zucchini is processed in the food processor so that you can't even tell it's there. I will definitely be making these again. I found these at Chew Nibble Nosh.

Rich & Fudgy Zucchini Brownies
2 c. chopped, fresh zucchini
3 T. butter, melted
3 eggs
1 t. pure vanilla extract
¾ c. sugar
⅔ c. unsweetened cocoa powder
½ t. espresso powder (optional)
½ t. baking powder
¼ t. salt
½ c. flour
1½ c. chocolate chips, divided
¼ c. half-and-half or heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a 7x11 inch baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside.

Place the chopped zucchini, eggs, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of a food processor. Cover, and process until the mixture is smooth.
Add the sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking powder, salt, and flour. Pulse a few times until well combined. Add ¾ cup of the chocolate chips and pulse a few more times to mix in the chocolate and chop it up just a bit.
Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
Once cool, combine the remaining ¾ cup of chocolate chips with the cream. Microwave in 30 second intervals, until warmed and stir until the mixture comes together into a smooth ganache. Spread the glaze over the top of the cooled brownies.
Place the pan in the refrigerator for an hour, just to set the chocolate topping. Remove from the fridge and bring to room temperature before slicing and serving.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Salsa Verde Chicken and Rice

This very easy recipe that my family actually liked is posted at 
Kevin and Amanda . I added chopped carrots and frozen corn to ours and you can add whatever you have on hand. I'm so glad to add this to our busy night recipe list.   

Salsa Verde Chicken and Rice

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper, to taste
1-2 T. olive oil
1 c. uncooked long grain white rice
2 c. broth
1 c. salsa verde

Rinse the chicken breasts and pat dry. Cut into bite-sized pieces (about 1-inch cubes). Season generously with salt and pepper. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.

When the oil is very hot, add the chicken in a single layer and cook until the outside is golden brown, about 1-2 minutes per side.

Add the rice, salsa verde, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil then cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes until the rice is tender.